Zereh Lalji has been fascinated with miniatures since she was a little girl. However, she made her first miniature house only about three years ago out of a cardboard carton. Ever since, there has been no looking back. The hobby turned into a profession for the mother of two after an art gallery got in touch with her to make a piece for them for an exhibition. The Gurgaon-based artist sold a few pieces through the gallery and then through an online store.

Talking to SheThePeople.TV, the self-taught miniaturist said she enjoys working on a miniature scale as it gives her the freedom to dream and create a world of her choosing. Excerpts from the interview:

You uploaded your first Instagram post in Dec 2015 and it has been over three years now. Have you noticed any difference in terms of people’s reaction or their comments?

Initially, when I made something, I used to upload it on my personal Facebook page. However, on Facebook, the audience was only the people I knew – family and friends. They are always very encouraging. But I was also seeking a community of people with similar interests and passions. So I started using Instagram and kept it solely for my creative work. I followed other creators, miniaturists, crafters and artists, whose work I admired. My followers were mostly people I did not know personally, but who appreciated what I had created and followed me for those reasons.

Initially, I had people just liking my stuff, now there is a familiarity, almost like I know these people and I’m part of a community. The miniaturists I follow are amazingly talented and inspire me to try making things I never thought I could. Some dare to share, are helpful with tips if stuck with something, and so very encouraging. Of late, I’ve also started getting a lot of enquiries from people interested in purchasing my work.

When did you realise that you want to step into a creative field and work on miniatures?

I’m a maker (if there is ever a word for it) and have this constant need to make stuff and have a strong desire to express myself creatively.

“Be it through gift wrapping, or making crochet toys for my kids, I’m always using my hands. As a teenager, I used to make stuff for my room, even made and sold some crafty gift items for a little extra pocket money”

I made my first miniature house out of a delivery carton for my daughter. I used to work on it in the evenings after the kids went to bed. It was therapeutic for me and magical for the kids. I then started building a little cottage in a shabby chic style which started getting a lot of attention on Instagram and Facebook. I was approached by an art gallery to make a piece for an exhibition and subsequently to make more pieces for sale – it was perfect – work from home, and do what I love.

What message you would like to give to those moms who also have a creative bent of mind but are engulfed in their family responsibilities?

Routines of everyday life, be it work, family, home can take over your life. It’s important to find time do things that feed your soul. Make the time – even if it’s for half an hour, when on the move, on holidays etc. Moreover, we underestimate ourselves and our abilities. I’ve been guilty of it as well. Unless something is spectacular, we don’t talk about it. There is a wonderful quote I read somewhere –“ Use all the talent God gave you for the forest would be very quiet if only the best bird sang.”

I started my career designing websites. My last job was with Nokia where I tracked consumer behaviour and attitude trends. I stopped working when my daughter was a year-old.

What is your take on the power of social media?

Social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook have given me the ability to showcase my work beyond family and friends and reach out to a wider global audience. The visibility I now get is thanks to the responses and interactions that I have got on these platforms.

As miniatures are still not very popular in India, it’s not easy to find others who do similar work. But these platforms have enabled me to get a sense of community with people who share my interest and passion. Because of my presence on Instagram, I was invited to create a miniature project for an e-book with other miniaturists from around the world which would not have been possible otherwise.

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What was the turning point in your life that proved to be an inspiration for you to follow your dream?

I’ve always been a creative person, all my jobs employed my creative faculties in one way or the other — be it designing websites, or thinking of blue-sky solutions for clients.

For me, making miniatures were truly serendipity. I never planned it, it just happened and I need to thank my kids — 8-year-old daughter and six-year-old son — who were my biggest inspiration and because of whom I can continue my creative journey.

How do you manage between your responsibilities as a mother and a creative miniaturist?

Being a mother is a full-time job and overwhelming at times. I mostly work on my miniatures after the kids go to bed and if I get some time in the morning when they are at school. This is my creative outlet, a way to unwind and relax at the end of the day. The work is so tiny and detailed, it makes me completely zone out….and I love it.

What are your future plans with respect to your miniature work?

I feel very fortunate to be able to do what I love. I will continue this passion of mine in whatever way I can and also look forward to collaborating with others.

Currently, I sell my work only within India but do hope to sell outside India as well. Maybe one day, I will have a small exhibition to display my creative work to miniature enthusiasts as well as to a wider audience.

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